Thursday, 31 January 2019

New Year's Revolution - Blog hop

It seems the blog hop team were hot off the press at the beginning with yet another blog hop, The New Year's Revolution, this time hosted by Cara Michaels, and co-hosted with Laura James & Ruth Long.

Sadly participants were not quite so quick - like myself - so the deadline was moved back to the end of January (today in fact!).

 

Not what it seems

I stand clamped against the wall, breathing hard. I can hear their heavy boots clomping down the hallway towards me. I inch over into the corner. The shadow will work to conceal me - plus they can’t turn their heads when walking, only when standing still.

It’s their weakness, a vital titbit of information we’ve gained. And it wasn’t easy getting it because their strength is seeing and hearing everything – and I mean EVERYTHING.

It’s more than just tapping into our global computer networks, satellite communication systems and mobile airwaves, they’ve got some kind of insider intel.

There aren’t many of us left. The rest have been reprogrammed. We don’t know how, being that the human brain isn’t mechanical, but they all operate on autopilot: eyes vacant.

But their sentinels are mechanical, which is why their heads don’t turn when they move. Knowing that has been a game changer. I’ve managed to infiltrate buildings I couldn’t before, like this one. It houses the mainframe of their operation: a huge sprawling complex they created days after their arrival. If I can get the devices in my bag in there, we stand a chance of reclaiming our lives and planet.

I sneak through the labyrinth of corridors, turning left and right, following the map I have in my head. Eidetic memory is a blessing.

I slow as I near the room we believe houses the neural feed of operation. I expect more sentinels but there aren’t any. I haven’t identified any cameras either. It’s eerie, and unsettling. I hope we’re not wrong.

I shuffle up to the door and put my hand on the handle. I can feel a hum through it. I put pressure on it. It moves down without a sound. I open it a crack. Can it really be this easy?
It’s dark inside. I slide in, closing it silently behind me. I wait for my eyes to adjust. There’s a light in the middle of the room. It pulses. My eyes can’t leave it. I feel the pulse behind them, and fall in sync with my heartbeat.

I slip the bag off my shoulder, my eyes unmoving from the light. I open the bag and feel for the device and bring it out. I run my fingers over it, feeling the buttons, knowing what each one does. I push the large one in the middle. It beeps. I take five paces forward and place it on the floor.

The pulse continues. I can feel it in my gums now. I can see pictures in my mind, images flashing up, of all sorts of strange things. I feel a kind of tugging at the back of my brain as though it’s trying to move away from it.

The light changes colour from white to green. I move to my left, counting my steps as the high speed movie in my head continues and the light shifts to yellow.

I retrieve another device from my bag, press the button and set it down. The light’s now blue. I move again to my left and remove another, activating it and putting it on the floor. The light’s now violet.
Then once more to the left and repeat; all four devices are down and active. The light’s moving into red. I shuffle backwards to the wall, sliding along it feeling for the door handle. I find it, but my eyes are transfixed, the red light pulsing like the blood in my veins.

I need to leave. I need to go now. Over the live stream of images in my mind I can see my path out. The handle moves down and I pull the door open ajar. I move my body into the gap, but my head’s still facing the light, my mind locked in. I inch it back and then with one almighty mental pull, yank it out.

I stand for a second, the silence in my head deafening as it stops processing the images. I blink a few times. Then I move; breaking into a jog back along the empty corridors, knowing there’s no one here, because they didn’t need to be.

They didn’t need to be, because they aren’t real. They’re an illusion and we’ve fallen for it. It’s a screen for something much worse. The light’s shown me.

I need to get back to the others before the devices kick in, because all hell will break loose once they do and we see what’s on the other side.




Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 92

This week's photo was taken by a guy called Garret Stark who likse gaming. From what I can gather he took a lots of shots of his dice, and this is one of them.

This week I have used it as a prompt to help me climb back into the story of David Sinclair, a character from my novella The Game (in the collection Slipping Through), and his current situation in the sequel to The Game - Pool of Players. What is the Jester up to this time? Here's a snippet.


The General Guidelines can be found here.

How to create a clickable link in Blogger comments can be found on lasts week's post here.

There is also a Facebook group for Mid-Week Flash, if you fancy getting the prompt there.





Game Playing 

David saw it on the floor and picked it up. It was a dice – or was it die if there was only one? He thought it might be. The surface was rough and worn. He could see cracks in the white. He tapped it with a finger nail; it was stone. He pondered the person who had left it here.

He hadn’t been in this room before, but he had been in the building. That was how he’d been able to get here. He turned the die over in his hand and wondered at its meaning. There was always a meaning, the Jester never left anything by chance and David knew this had to be some kind of clue.  

He took another look round the room which was devoid of furniture and furnishings: A bare board floor with blank walls and curtain-less windows. Another derelict building; one less worn this time. The Jester seemed to favour them, especially in this city, which seemed to sprawl out in every direction and contain lots of them. They remained hidden behind its facade of uptown glamour. There was no other sign of his elusive adversary, so this was it, the only lead he had to go on.

It could only mean one thing; he had to venture into clubs again. The dark dingy ones the Jester liked to frequent in this time parallel were abhorrent, full of dangerous, often psychopathic, men of deviant means. And the die would indicate some kind of gambling den. One came to mind that he had passed a few times, in the back streets when he’d been trying to find somewhere to bunk down for the night. Could he find him there? Or was this another set up?

Before David could think further on it, he was there, a few feet away from the entrance. He found this new ability to slip through unnerving, yet exhilarating. Think of a place and just go there. If only he could work out how to do this back home – or to get him back home, but the chances of him seeing it again were slim. He knew too much, the Jester would never let him go back now. And he still had so many questions to ask, he just wanted to find him and ask them. He hated being played like this, again.

The die was still in his hand, and it matched the one hanging on the name board above the heavy wooden door, flanked by a bouncer. He was in the right place. What would the Jester have in store for him this time?



Saturday, 26 January 2019

Review of Gwendy's Button Box, by Stephen King & Richard Chizmar

Gwendy's Button BoxGwendy's Button Box by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It's rare I sit down and read an entire book so quickly, but with this being a novella, by my favourite author, and such a gripping little tale, it was easy to do.

As always with Stephen King, when I pick up one of his books, having not read him for a while, it's like coming home. It always flows; he always drops breadcrumbs to what is to come next to keep the reader interested and reading further, and the characters are real and immersive.

I particularly liked this tale, which for me is a return to King's more quirky side, matching the likes of From A Buick 8, UR, or Mile 81. I also love that he brought us another RF character. This one called Richard Farris, but to his constant readers it eludes to Randall Flagg a character that started in The Stand but has popped up in many of his novels - never quite the same, but always wrapped in mystery and with a name that provides the same initials - RF.

The story is about a box, given to Gwendy when she is 12, that has button's on it. It is entrusted to her for safe keeping, due to its use being so profound, but it also pays for its keep in a way that is different and intriguing. .

I don't know how much input Richard Chizmar had in the writing of this novella, as I am not familiar with his writing or work, only his magazine Cemetery Dance (which I have great affection for), but maybe he added to some of the darkness in there. I like to think so.

As a Stephen King reader this one hit the mark for me. I loved it.


View all my reviews

Friday, 25 January 2019

Mostly Dark FREE for the weekend!


Just to let you all know that Mostly Dark is FREE for the weekend 

(Today - 25th Jan - through to the end of Monday - 28th Jan). 

Pick up a copy if you haven't already, and let others know. 

Amazon UK
Amazon US



https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07D62V3Q4?pf_rd_p=71cb17e9-f468-4d3f-94d5-a0de44c50a7e&pf_rd_r=STKMMYEGS8ACEJF8X35Zhttps://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07D62V3Q4?pf_rd_p=71cb17e9-f468-4d3f-94d5-a0de44c50a7e&pf_rd_r=STKMMYEGS8ACEJF8X35Z





Review of Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks

Uncommon Type: Some StoriesUncommon Type: Some Stories by Tom Hanks
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I would give this a 3 and a half, if halves were allowed. But it's not quite a four star for me personally.

I am a huge fan of Tom Hanks the actor, so I was curious about Tom Hanks the writer, hence I gave it a read. And his fame has indeed been what has allowed this book to garner such success and become so well read. I don't believe it would attract much attention from publishers otherwise.

If you like light, short stories, that don't really have a lot to say and are just nice anecdotes about American life, then this is the book for you. The stories are a little 'beige' in my humble opinion, and many are forgettable.

The writing itself is good: it flows, it has its own style, there is a lot to build on. But I do believe editors have indulged Tom because of who he is. There are pieces that really could do with being reworked and tightened up, and characters developed better. But maybe that's my inner editor talking (after all it is my job).

I did enjoy many of the stories: Christmas Eve, A Month on Green Street, The Past is Important to Us (a great little sci-fi), Go See Costas, and Steve Wong is Perfect. The best appeared at the beginning and the end, the middle stories seemed to fade. I was always waiting for something to actually happen and nothing ever really did in many of the stories.

Some people thought it was going to be about typewriters, but the only connection is that one is mentioned in every tale. It didn't matter to me. It neither added or detracted from it.

I'd recommend it for light reading if you're interested in reading it, but really it isn't one I would shout about.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 91

This week's photo prompt was taken by Arif Ikhwani, an Indonesian photographer. He took these in  in Sidoarjo, Indonesia. These are sculptures by an Indonesian artist Dadang Christanto, which were erected on the site to represent victims affected and have been slowly submerged by mud oozing from a mud volcano that is still erupting.

This is the kind of tale that could turn into something much much bigger. And maybe it will, one day. I left it hanging to suit the word count. 

The General Guidelines can be found here.

How to create a clickable link in Blogger comments can be found on lasts week's post here.

There is also a Facebook group for Mid-Week Flash, if you fancy getting the prompt there.



Portent


They appeared a few months after one of the severe storms. Emily had discovered them on her way to school – well school, it was what was left of a once thriving community, a collection of people trying to hold onto some kind of routine, some kind of connection in a world that was rapidly changing in a drastic and violent manner.

The storms were new but the forecasts for them weren’t. There’d been warnings about their impending arrival for decades, but no one had believed they would happen. Everyone had thought it was just hype, something to sell clicks on news websites and that the root causes would be resolved. They hadn’t been. World governments had claimed to start changing environmental policies, but it had been too little, too late.

The upside of the storms was they had brought down those news websites and those governments. In fact they had destroyed the entire network and brought such destruction mankind was struggling to hold on. Emily didn’t mind though. Without the network there was less distraction and less haste. She preferred that. There was more time to do things, like observe the world around you. And when she had come across the stone figures in the dried mud she’d done just that – observed them.

She wondered if they were real people and the mud had just dried onto them making them look like stone, but she wasn’t going to venture out across the mudflat to find out. It had ruptured up from the earth below, bubbled up as a result of activity far below, so it wasn’t stable despite appearances. A couple of boys at school had tried, fortunately they’d been rescued.

But these figures didn’t look like people caught in the destruction; there were no expressions of anguish or bodies contorted in defensive shapes, just straight, identical sentinels. It was unnerving.
And when Emily told her teacher about them, she heard they weren’t the only ones; others had appeared in the towns nearby too. Her teacher had tried to hide her concern, but Emily had sensed it, and discussed it with her friends at break time.

‘Aliens!’

‘You say that about everything, Gerrad. I don’t think they can be,’ Emily replied.

Why not?’

‘Because they’ve come from underground, that’s why, dufus!’ Spencer cuffed the back of Gerrad’s head.

‘Ow! Just because they’re underground doesn’t mean they aren’t aliens!’

‘He’s right you know,’ Natasha added, while busy filing her nails. ‘They could’ve already been here. Like they were in that movie with Tom Cruise – you know the one, War something ...’

‘Of the Worlds,’ Spencer finished. ‘Good movie. I miss movies.’

‘You can still watch them on DVD,’ Gerrad suggested.

I know. But I miss the excitement of new ones.’

‘Going to be a long time before they make any new ones with California gone.’

‘I know.’ Spencer sighed.

‘I think they’re some kind of portent,’ said Emily.

‘What’s a portent?’ Natasha asked.

‘A sign that something bad is going to happen,’ Spencer answered. ‘But hasn’t that happened already?’

‘Or is still happening?’ added Gerrad.

‘Yes, I know, but this is something else. We’ve trashed the planet, and maybe these ... “things” are going to do something, like take over or something.’

‘Sounds scary,’ said Natasha.

Emily shrugged. ‘Maybe, maybe not. We always assume something is bad, but why can’t it be good. Maybe they’re going to straighten things out. Save humanity.’

‘Give us hope, you mean?’ Spencer asked.

‘Yeah, why not?’

They fell silent. None of them wanted to consider that. Hope was a big word to bandy about these days.

‘Anyway, I’m going to take another look on my way home from school. Who’s coming?’ Emily looked round at the group. They all nodded.

That afternoon, having been let out early due to another storm warning, they walked home together. The wind was already picking up though, so they didn’t hang around and only stopped once they arrived at the open expanse of the mudflat. Emily gasped.

‘What’s wrong?’ Gerrad looked ready to run.

‘They’ve grown!’ Emily said.

‘What do you mean “grown”?’ Spencer asked.

‘They were only chest high this morning when I walked by.’

Silence fell as they heard a cracking sound and the feet of two statues cleared the mud. The children froze until further movement broke their paralysis and they ran for home. The statues had turned as though watching them go.








Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 90

This week's photo prompt was taken by Kurt Gordon, an Australian photographer who travels a lot and takes a lot of pictures. You can find them on display over on 500px. He has some stunning shots. This one was taken when he was on the 3rd day of the Inca trail. Simply called Stone Stairs.

I tried to come up with something original, because initially all I came up with were cliche ideas for this photos. I like how it panned out.

The General Guidelines can be found here.

How to create a clickable link in Blogger comments can be found on lasts week's post here.

There is also a Facebook group for Mid-Week Flash, if you fancy getting the prompt there.



Taking a Fall 

Abby could sit here forever admiring the view; the perfect glow of light coming in and colouring the world inside this beautiful cave. She’d been lucky to stumble upon it. She smirked – stumble being the operative word.

She looked down at her crooked leg that had now gone numb in places (at least she hoped that was why she couldn’t feel all of it), and then down at the steps she’d managed to crawl up in the dark since her fall. In the dawn sunlight she could see how well crafted they were, and how they spiralled down into the cavernous green hollow.

Abby also noted how the ground fell away steeply on one side of the stone staircase at the entrance, and reminded herself how lucky she’d been with how she’d fallen in. She’d been foolish to continue moving around at night on the dark mountain side. What had she been thinking?

She’d been thinking about getting to the top first, that’s what she’d been thinking – like it was some kind of race completing this Inca trail. She’d missed the point entirely. She knew that now. They didn’t call it a pilgrimage for nothing. It was about the journey not the destination. All the clich├ęs were starting to make sense now.

She’d wanted a new challenge, a change of life, a change of self – and well she had certainly got that spending all night trying to pull her broken body up some mysterious steps.

A part of her was in awe of the place that had come into view over the last hour, but another part of her knew she was still in shock from the accident. She had to get out of here while it lasted and try and find some help, because without it the chances of survival were slim.

Abby wasn’t a natural survival type. She hadn’t taken a proper look at her leg – hadn’t dared. Mostly because she wouldn’t have a clue what to do to help it, but also because seeing it might send her into a panic.

Panic would be her undoing right now. It was why she was focusing on the things she was grateful for, like how she’d fallen through the hole onto the steps rather than into the abyss beside them, and how beautiful the location was, something she wouldn’t have seen if she hadn’t fallen in.
She’d survived the night by concentrating on climbing up the steps, one tiny bit by one tiny bit, the mental focus allowing her to push out the pain and all the other thoughts, and she would survive by continuing to do that.

This reminded her of what she needed to do now. She could see the top. It wasn’t that far; she could even count the steps. She would make it out of here, she knew that, so she started again, dragging her body up each step, pushing the pain to the back of her mind, and resisting the urge to scream either in response to it or to attract attention. It would be a waste of energy.

Then she heard a scrabbling sound, a face broke the perfect circle of light, then another couple of faces, and someone shouted, “Hello, are you okay?”

Relief overwhelmed her. She knew the light would lead her out of the darkness. 


Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Review - The Raven's Wing, by Michael Wombat

The Raven's WingThe Raven's Wing by Michael Wombat
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Where do I begin to try and impart the colourful, magical, mysterious, and intriguing story and characters Michael Wombat has created with this magnificent novel? I am not really a reader of historical fiction, but this book is so much more than that - it is a mystery, a crime thriller, a whodunnit, a psychological thriller and it dabbles in magical realism. It has so much to offer.

The characters are well developed, layered, perfect and flawed in every way that makes them captivating, allowing the reader to feel connected and care about them. I feel like I have been a part of all their lives: John, Moss, Jenifry, Pentecost, Ailred, Ralf, even Wyni, John's wife, who is a ghost. There are fabulous twists and shocking turns, and everything that real life can throw at you, yet set in the medieval times. The backdrop is real and gritty and engages all the senses - some less desirable, like how people's effluence was disposed of and corpses rot.

Inadvertently I have also learnt a great deal about life in medieval times: from the language of the time, to the politics, religion, hierarchy, and day to day life of both peasant and gentry. It was eyeopening and yet related to current day. There are extensive notes in the back to support everything and explain things for the nosy reader, like myself.

The story itself is fast paced and barely gives you time to catch your breath as you move onto the next gripping scene. It follows Minstrel John on his quest to avenge his wife's murder, after being left an intriguing object at her funeral, which he then tracks down to the the owner, who needs his help as their fates intertwine. There is violence, there is death and murder, and even attacks by wolves. And there is witchcraft and magic. Personally I couldn't want more from a book.

Michael Wombat has a way with words that is beguiling, and together with the usage of words from the time and the dialect, as well as translated lyrics from medieval songs and his own wonderful poetry, it a pleasing and easy read that flows well. I encourage everyone to give it a read, you won't regret it.


View all my reviews

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 89

This week's prompt photo I found online, probably through Twitter, but I can't find any results on its origins online on any searches.

And this picture can only bring one thing for a primarily Horror writer, like myself. A dark tale, and one that might CONTAIN TRIGGERS. So be aware that you might be disturbed by this one .

The General Guidelines can be found here.

How to create a clickable link in Blogger comments can be found on lasts week's post here.

There is also a Facebook group for Mid-Week Flash, if you fancy getting the prompt there.



Scarred

She ran her fingers over them feeling the bumps and dips. Her legs were scarred for life, and so was she.

People didn’t get that; people thought that as it was over and no longer happening, she was fine. Because she could function, go about her day to day chores, nothing was wrong – all’s well that ends well.

But they weren’t inside her head; they didn’t see the things she did: the knife tip against her skin, how it quivered while he did things, trying to hold it and her where he wanted them. They didn’t recall the smells: the unwashed body odour that made her stomach churn, the stink of beer-breath heating up her ear as he moved up and down, and the blood – that had its own indescribable smell. They didn’t hear the sounds that were triggered by other sounds: a door hinge creaking like the door to her cell opening, people whispering bringing back the filthy words he’d utter while doing those awful things to her, and the sound of anyone urinating like he’d do in the corner after.

She had no words to explain the sickness and dread they brought, that she’d lived with the entire 16 weeks of her imprisonment. She was no longer able to form any. He’d made sure of that when he’d finished with her, grown bored of her supplication, her lack of fight and thrown her out onto the street where someone had found her, still bound in the ropes she’d been kept in, which had become embedded in her skin and scabbed over. Even now she could still feel the sensation of the knife slicing her tongue, even though she couldn’t feel anything else inside her mouth.

But it wasn’t visible like the scars on her legs. And they weren’t visible when she wore trousers, which she did most days. So all was fine and all was normal. 

She wished she’d died in that cell. She wished he’d killed her.